If you thought political discourse was already unseemly, buckle up to be blown away by a new level of brazen and intentional dishonesty that is quickly becoming the standard for Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign.

Romney’s advisers apparently convinced him that he should fill his first television ad of the campaign with intentional lies and distortions and racially tinged imagery. The ad uses an edited quote from then-presidential candidate Barack ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaKamala Harris makes history — as a Westerner Poll: 15 percent of Democratic voters want to eliminate the filibuster Donald Trump has done more for African Americans than we think MORE talking about the economy. Left out of the ad was the fact that Obama was at the time talking about his 2008 GOP opponent, Arizona Sen. John McCainJohn Sidney McCainSarah Palin offers Harris advice: 'Don't get muzzled' McSally gaining ground on Kelly in Arizona Senate race: poll Davis: The Hall of Shame for GOP senators who remain silent on Donald Trump MORE. This blatant misrepresentation of Obama’s words earned rebuke from news analysts and a “pants on fire” (as in "liar, liar, pants on fire") rating from Politifact.


In an interview with The Hill, Democratic strategist Tad Devine accused the Romney campaign of invoking the controversial Rev. Jeremiah Wright in the ad. Earlier Devine had tweeted that the ad was “clearly an attempt to bring back Rev. Wright and race.”

Even though Romney apparently approved of the message in the ad, it is unlikely he’s very comfortable with this strategy. The ad, with its intentional misrepresentations and stealth nod to racism, betrays Romney’s squeaky-clean image that he has spent decades grooming.  

Despite the backlash, Romney’s advisers are not backing away from it. One said that the campaign had included the controversial quote in its press release issued when the ad began to air. As if that somehow turns a lie into the truth. Another said the ad should serve as an assurance to Republican voters that the Romney campaign plans to engage the president aggressively and relentlessly. But what does it say to moderate swing voters?

As an aside: one Romney adviser mocked the response of the Obama campaign by cracking that they should be investing in “defibrillators” based on their “over reaction” to the ad. This is the same adviser who advises another client, GOP Sen. Scott Brown of Massachusetts, to throw a political temper tantrum every time someone holds him accountable for his actions in the Senate.

What is clear from the ad and the posture of Romney’s advisers is that we can expect more intentionally deceitful and despicable tactics in the months to come. What isn’t clear is that Americans are ready to restore this kind of dishonesty to the White House.

After all, if Romney the candidate thinks it’s OK to lie about the president’s words, what’s to keep Romney in the White House from lying about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq or declaring "mission accomplished" six years before a war ends? Romney has a choice to make: get his advisers under control or continue to be the new standard-bearer for dishonesty.

David Di Martino is a communications consultant in Washington, D.C. Follow David on Twitter: @ddimartino1